Career Advice: What You Can Learn From an Olympian

Michael Phelps is a freak of nature. There it is, I said it. But even the most incredibly naturally gifted and genetically predisposed creatures among us must train with fervor if aiming to bring home the gold. There are simply milliseconds that separate the great from the forgotten ones. So what are YOU doing to stand out, to go that extra mile?

Interestingly after earning 8 medals in the last Olympics much has been made of Michael Phelps’s loss to Ryan Lochte in the first race. It’s as if the world watched breathlessly as their hero faltered and failed, we were stunned, and it seemed that Michael was a bit stunned too. He is great, and greatness is unaccustomed to defeat.

On a world stage like the Olympics it’s easy to sit in the cheap seats of our somewhat undisciplined, untrained, and ordinary lives and second guess how a phenom like Michael could lose such a pivotal place on the platform. But who among us has sacrificed what he’s sacrificed, swum the laps, paid the price and earned the global respect that Michael has? Not me, for certain! My last swim meet was sometime around the early 80s and I’m not sure that I won that one! But even I can learn something from watching Michael do what he is unprecedentedly gifted to do~ and yet fail, miserably, and publicly.

Even greatness must train exceptionally well to bring home the Gold when the competition is at it’s fiercest. There is no fiercer competition than the Olympics. It is, by definition, the games of the globe’s greatest. From all the far corners, countries that are new and countries that are ancient, we gather. And the playing field is even. We wear our colors and swell with pride for our country, and then try to fight back the tears that inevitably fall as our anthem is played for all to honor our victory on that pedestal.

And yet, having been there so many times prior, this time, the platform, the anthem, the Gold, it eluded him. The seconds, the milliseconds, the training plan from months and years prior… it all passed in a flash and it was over. Someone else had won.

For me, in the job market, coaching others to their best performance is my life’s passion. Like Michael Phelps, I’ve worked with a few truly exceptionally gifted individuals and a lot that perhaps were not quite the natural talents but who achieved remarkable success through their discipline and training. I’ve seen both win. Both victories are sweet. But there is something in us that likes seeing the phenom take the stage, and something that likes seeing the other guy win. The one that it didn’t come “easy” for… the one that had to work for it, claw for it, and finally- despite the odds, despite the obstacles, when that guy wins, we all celebrate and share in the joy for a moment.

Whether you’re the natural, or the one that always has to try harder than everyone else, or maybe you’re like most of us and a bit of a blend of both types- I would encourage you to take a little wisdom from the lessons we watched played out on the Olympic pool.

1) Don’t take your wins for granted. Train with all your heart, with all your ability, and focus every bit of your talent on achieving your potential.

2) Remember that great achievements demand great sacrifice. Pay your dues and put in the hours and don’t coast. No auto-piloting your career.

3) Take charge of your career and relentlessly pursue your potential. Don’t expect your boss to manage your career, and don’t expect it to result in Gold-level significance if left unattended.

4) Observe the pain of defeat. Work hard, with all your might, to avoid those consequences.

5) Don’t dwell on defeat when it does occur. Even the great ones cannot win every title, forever. When Phelps lost, he put it behind him, and focused on his next race. Greatness learns from the past, but is fully present in the present.

Go for the Gold.

Lauren Goodson, Founder and President of Cornerstone Recruitment Group and Career Expert Academy  is a nationally renowned expert in Job Search Strategies, Career Coaching and Hiring for the Professional audience. She has helped thousands of job seekers to achieve their potential and grow their career.  Through ,  Lauren has redefined professional job search training by establishing an all-in-one resource for extensive and exceptional expert information.  Be sure to visit for more info.


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